Irene: Debris left by flood in creek could take months to remove

A mass of stone, trees and debris deposited by the Schoharie Creek in a matter of hours could take w

A mass of stone, trees and debris deposited by the Schoharie Creek in a matter of hours could take well over two months to clean up.

But the blockage of a side channel in Burtonsville that takes on overflow water when the creek rises could worsen flooding by restricting its flow or carrying debris farther north, so officials want a fix as soon as possible.

Montgomery County DPW Commissioner Paul Clayburn and Charleston Supervisor Shayne Walters took engineers and contractors on a tour of the scene Thursday in hopes of getting bids submitted in time for action by the county Board of Supervisors’ meeting next week.

FEMA officials toured the site last week and confirmed a remediation project would qualify for disaster funding, Walters said.

It’s critical the job gets done soon because the debris could force water into the already-soaked Burtonsville neighborhood during the next high-water event, either in this hurricane season or during the annual thaw next spring, Walters said.

If carried farther downstream, or northward, hundreds of uprooted trees littering the banks of the creek could cause additional blockages. There are several more bridges north of Burtonsville before the Schoharie Creek empties into the Mohawk River, he said, and any one of them could catch debris during a storm and cause a backup.

Debris lines the creek’s shores at least a half-mile in both directions of the Burtonsville bridges — one crosses the side channel and the other spans the main creek channel into Schenectady County.

Both bridges withstood the force of not only flood water but also of trees, structures and other debris that pounded into them during the disaster in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

In addition to threatening the homes that remain on Colyer Road, Clayburn said he believes the blockage could imperil the safety of both bridges.

“That’s my biggest concern, with that auxiliary channel basically plugged,” Clayburn said.

How to help

There are many ways to help the people, schools and organizations hurt by the floods. Here are some links and ideas:

Several homes on Colyer Road were destroyed in the flooding late last month, though their remains still sit near the creek. A foundation is all that’s left of one of them.

Clayburn said the project as described to contractors would entail three primary jobs:

* Removing debris of destroyed buildings and sending it to MOSA landfills;

* Removing the excess stone and gravel dragged into its current spot by the force of the creek;

* Grinding up and disposing of stumps and tree limbs in the creek, and stockpiling dead trees so that locals could access them for firewood.

Clayburn said it’s too early to guess how much the job would cost, and attempting to do so could skew the bids expected by 2 p.m. Tuesday.

But from discussions with contractors Thursday, Clayburn said it’s possible the county may have to extend the time specified for the job — 75 days — because of the massive scope.

Clayburn said it’s his understanding the project could get 75 percent funding through FEMA with the remainder to be paid for by the state and county.

Meanwhile, after two days of scattered rain across the region, the National Weather Service is forecasting thunderstorms for today and into this evening. Meteorologist Kevin Lipton said the weather could include locally heavy downpours in some areas, but a sustained, regionwide storm that could cause new problems in the flood-ravaged Schoharie Valley is unlikely.

“It doesn’t look like a widespread, heavy rainfall at this point,” he said Thursday afternoon.

The county Board of Supervisors is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Categories: Schenectady County

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